Author: Consumer Council
Published on 25 August 2011 09:00 AM
The Consumer Council has called for four key actions following today’s announcement from Power NI that an 18.6 per cent electricity price rise will take effect from 1 October.
Describing it as a massive blow for consumers coming into winter, the Consumer Council has called on the NI Executive to take practical steps to address the problem.
- Use the Executive/Government estate’s huge energy purchasing power to negotiate lower prices for consumers;
- Require that the home heating oil industry does more to support vulnerable households and those in fuel poverty, for example introduce universal pay as you go cards;
- Ensure that the energy regulatory framework is working to deliver the lowest possible energy prices for consumers; and
- Set a roadmap and timescale to address the fuel poverty crisis in NI. - Today’s 18.6 per cent price increase could put a further 52,000 households into fuel poverty).
Speaking about the impact of today’s price rise announcement, Consumer Council Chief Executive Antoinette McKeown said: “This increase will mean that Power NI customers’ bills will rise, on average, by £92 per year to £588. Overall, it will mean that the majority of households in Northern Ireland will have an energy bill of £2,114 per year. This is around £900 a year more than households in Great Britain, most of which rely on gas for heating.
“The Consumer Council is committed to doing everything we can to support energy consumers in Northern Ireland. In the last year we have:
- Persuaded the Utility Regulator that the exchange rate it used to calculate charges for the Single Electricity Market was unfavourable to the Northern Ireland consumer; as a result the Regulator has changed the exchange rate used saving around a £0.5M for consumers.
- Been working with experts in the energy industry to develop potential solutions to current consumer detriment;
- Worked with partners to set up the Fuel Poverty Coalition to help inform Government policy and keep the spotlight on this critical issue; and
- Suggested practical initiatives such as an area-based approach to insulating homes in areas of deprivation; and
- Developed a guide (Switch On) to switching energy suppliers as well as electricity and gas price comparison tools for consumers to check they are receiving the best deal (electricity consumers can save up to 17 per cent). Free copies of Switch On are available at www.consumercouncil.org.uk or by calling 0800 121 6022 and to check you are getting the best deal visit www.consumercouncil.org.uk and click on ‘Gas and Electricity Comparison Tools’.
“This latest price increase from Power NI will make it even harder for households to heat and power their homes and for businesses to survive in this uncertain economic climate,” continued Antoinette. “This price hike comes at a time when household budgets are already extremely tight due to the rising cost of everyday essentials such as fuel, food and insurance.
“Energy is a global issue which is driven by volatile international markets but there are practical interventions that the Northern Ireland Executive can take. The Executive therefore has the responsibility to examine the cost of energy in Northern Ireland before it becomes simply unaffordable for the vast majority of households and businesses here.”